How to avoid 'weight gain shame' at Christmas

Has anybody ever noticed how much time women waste expounding their weight and 'feeling fat' around this time of year?

Has anybody ever noticed how much time women waste expounding their weight and 'feeling fat' around this time of year?

'I feel fat' is a broken record that plays in many women's minds and is thrown around in social catch-ups like we're discussing the weather.

Yet these three little words are anything but flippant - they're incredibly de-energising and can chip away at your self-esteem. I can relate.

'I feel fat' was a fairly regular visitor to my vocabulary. In days gone by, ‘feeling fat’ would also dominate my inner dialogue, especially around Christmas when you’re eating rich, heavy foods and perhaps not feeling your most vital. That was a long time ago.

Now, I can honestly say that 'not feeling fat' feels pretty damn good. And please don't get me wrong - if you are an above-average weight and feel great, power to you sister!

I just mean that it’s so liberating to not give a hoot about having the ‘perfect’ body. And aside from the feel-good benefit, here's a few other reasons why I think we should kick 'I feel fat' flat on its arse and make a conscious effort to be kinder to ourselves:

1) There's a TONNE of research that links poor body image with disordered eating behaviours. Picking on your body often leads to thoughts about losing weight and restricting food.

Yet when we're obsessing over not eating, guess what our brains want to do? Eat the food we're thinking about! I'm not making this up.

Check out some of the incredible work by Dr Rick Kausman and Fiona Willer that explores how restrictive food behaviours actually lead to overeating.

2) When I worked in clinical practice, the majority of my patients totally beat up on themselves about their weight. It takes all my willpower not to scream at people who make fun of 'fat' people and assume that they don't care about their weight.

I don't want to generalise to all people because obviously everybody is different but the vast amount of overweight clients I've ever seen certainly do.

They're acutely aware of your judgement and I can assure you that nothing you say could be worse than what they're telling themselves. Yet the problem with this is that focussing on how fat you feel can keep you trapped in the problem.

3) It sucks. 'Feeling fat' can become a pervasive mood that hangs over your day like a dark cloud. It steals your sparkle and undermines confidence. Not to mention the fact that it detracts your mental energy away from things that actually matter.

4) It prevents you from being present and enjoying life. If you're totally turned inward envisioning how fat your thighs must look in this dress, you're hardly enjoying life. And sorry, talking to your girlfriends about body weight is kinda boring - just sayin'.

So now that we've established some good reasons to get off the 'I feel fat' bandwagon, here's some ideas that have helped me in the past. DRESS WITH LOVE. Yeah, it's girly and mushy but it totally works!

Take time to get ready slowly and mindfully and invest loving care in the details. On 'I feel fat days', I used to love using a body scrub and polishing my nails. I'd take extra care to do my make up nicely and wear colours that I felt drawn to.

By dressing to FEEL nice, rather than LOOK nice, it's amazing how low body esteem can melt away. BAN IT, BABY. 'I feel fat' is banished from my vernacular. Vamoosed. Goneskies. And whenever it rears it's ugly head, I acknowledge it for what it is and deal with it pronto. This wasn't easy; I'd had years of mentally programming myself to 'feel fat'.

Start watching your thoughts and choose to say and think something different when you notice this harmful phrase creep into your dialogue...You'll soon notice a shift! CHOOSE "I FEEL..." Change "I feel fat" with a more accurate description of how you feel.

For me, when I used to 'feel fat', I was really feeling low about myself, stressed out or experiencing some other negative emotion. For me, it was never really about my body but it's easier to pigeon hole your distress into something that you feel like you can control - like losing weight. And if your 'I feel fat' happens after eating, is it maybe because you feel overfull?

Uncomfortable from eating too much? This can be helpful to acknowledge too. Remember, you don't suddenly gain a noticeable amount of weight overnight (that's physically impossible, peeps), so try to understand what you're really feeling.

Nine times out of 10, 'I feel fat' is just a bandaid. MOVE IT, MOVE IT. It's amazing how moving your body makes you feel so much fitter and healthier - almost as though it heightens the perceptions of your muscles and physique.

It doesn't have to be strenuous and it certainly shouldn't come from a place of self-punishment but try moving your body in a way that feels good for you. Those endorphins will lift the cloud if nothing else!

FIND A POSITIVE BODY IMAGE BUDDY. I did this, legit. And it was the pivotal turning point for me to make real progress with my body image. My buddy and I made a pact to text each other with one body-related and one non-physical trait that we liked about ourselves each day.

Boy, was it hard at first. But like any new habit, we got better at it and these days I can look into a mirror and not start a mental tirade of self-criticism.

EAT MINDFULLY. I'm all for joyful eating. But personally, I don't like the feeling of overeating. It's not purely a weight thing - I hate the sluggish, sick and de-energising sensation of having too much food in my belly. In the past, overeating was a major 'I feel fat' trigger for me.

Eliminating the trigger obviously also reduced the subsequent 'fat feelings'. Your trigger might be different. I really, truly believe that life, our bodies and food are meant to be delighted in.

Don't waste this beautiful time of year 'feeling fat', take it as an opportunity to be a little kinder to yourself :-) On a post-script note, this advice is not intended for anyone with a genuine eating disorder or serious body dysmorphia.

It this is you, or you suspect it could be you, please seek properly qualified help.

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